In today’s fast paced hospitality sector restaurants are working harder than ever to thrive or, more likely, just barely survive, and for those who do make it long enough to truly compete, the marketplace continues to become increasingly crowded.
Victoria, British Columbia, is seeing consumers increasingly choosing to avoid the downtown core in favour of edge of town shopping centres with ample parking, making the climate for new downtown restaurants even more improbable. So why would anyone choose to enter this space, and how could they possibly expect to succeed?
David Cooper, owner and CEO of South Island Hospitality helps shed some light on the subject: “We are in this business because of our love of food, and our deep commitment to our people and our customers. If we didn’t love it we wouldn’t stand a chance.”
On Canada Day, 2017, South Island Hospitality opened Finn’s Restaurant in one of the city’s most coveted heritage buildings in the heart of downtown on the inner harbour. “Of course we love our location, but it’s just not enough to have a beautiful heritage restaurant space overlooking the harbour, we have to be about more than that” says Cooper. “Our goal with Finn’s is to create a centre of excellence in our kitchen team by developing talent in an environment that offers genuine careers and opportunities for growth”. This is hardly a new concept, but it certainly is unusual to see it applied to a restaurant which falls outside of the exclusive, “high end” category. “Our people are at the heart of what we do, and how we do it, That’s our most important investment. We provide full medical and dental health benefits for every full time kitchen employee, from the dishwasher to the chef, as well as employee awards to recognize achievement, ongoing training, and for those who want to challenge themselves further, a company paid Red Seal chef apprenticeship program”.
So how has the local community responded? “Locals have been unbelievably supportive. We still haven’t done any marketing, because we are finishing up our washroom renovations and expansion of our harbour front patio, but thanks to the dedication of our kitchen and front of house teams we are already seeing locals coming back and bringing their friends. All our team members are invested in our mission, and they have made it possible for us to cover a huge amount of ground in a very short time. No matter how tight this market is, people will always respond to great food and great service in a warm inviting atmosphere”.
So if you find yourself in downtown Victoria drop in at Finn’s and see how they are doing in pursuit of their lofty goals. At the very least you can experience a refreshing approach to an often cynical business, while sipping on your cocktail and admiring Victoria’s beautiful inner harbour.